Understand Hepatitis with HALZA: a Comprehensive Guide
(Free posters to download + a Quiz at the bottom of the article!)
Most people have some knowledge on common chronic diseases like Cancer and Diabetes, and their symptoms, consequences, and preventive methods. But apart from these, there’s another silent killer that many only know by name: Viral Hepatitis. Here’s a “crash course” on this disease that’s more widespread than you may think.
1. There are 5 types of Hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E
Though symptoms are similar across all types of Hepatitis, they come in varying degrees of severity. While Hepatitis in general refers to the inflammation of the liver, each type of Hepatitis is transmitted differently, and caused by different strains of the virus. Out of these, Hepatitis C is the most common, though in South East Asia, Hepatitis B is most prevalent.
2. Both babies and adults can be vaccinated against Hepatitis
Unfortunately, vaccines are only available for types A and B of Hepatitis, but some protection is better than none. Ideally, infants should get their first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and start getting the Hepatitis A vaccine right after they turn a year old. Don’t fret if you weren’t vaccinated as a baby – you can still get your shots as an adult if you haven’t been infected.
3. Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of liver cancer cases and death
Those with chronic Hepatitis, or long-term Hepatitis, are more susceptible to liver cancer. Hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis, which is the forming of scar tissue in the liver. The body then overcompensates to produce more good liver cells to replace the scarring, but this overproduction could eventually result in Cancer over time.
Together, Hepatitis B and C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world, and claims 1.34 million lives per year.
4. Hepatitis cannot be spread through forms of casual contact such as shaking hands
It’s completely safe to hug a person who has Hepatitis. The disease also cannot be transmitted through breast milk, so mothers can go ahead and feed their babies without worry.
5. Practising safe sex can prevent Hepatitis B from spreading
Among all types of the disease, Hepatitis B is the one that’s most easily spread via sexual activity — through semen, vaginal fluid, blood, and urine. Whether you’re engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal sex, it’s important to be well-protected.
6. It’s possible for patients to manage their condition and prevent viral Hepatitis from spreading
If you’re an infected party, here’s what you can do to lessen the gravity of your illness and protect your loved ones from the disease:
7. Signs of Hepatitis can come in the most unnoticeable of forms
From mere fatigue to fevers, symptoms of Hepatitis include the following:
If you’ve been experiencing one or more of these a little too often, it would be good to get yourself checked, just in case.
8. 70-80% of people with Hepatitis C do not show any symptoms
Those who have been infected with acute Hepatitis – that is, Hepatitis that lasts 6 months or less – often go by without even displaying any symptoms of the illness. Even if that acute Hepatitis evolves into chronic Hepatitis, symptoms are long drawn out and it’s difficult to notice them till the later stages of the disease, when things start to get more serious.
Do go for routine checkups every year or so to have the peace of mind of being disease-free.
9. Getting a piercing or tattoo can increase the risk of Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C are spread when a person’s infected blood, or items with traces of it, comes into contact with another person. If you plan on getting inked, make sure you engage a reputable tattooist who uses new sterilized needles on each customer; a moment’s folly with a contaminated needle can lead to a lifetime of suffering.
Same goes for piercings – needles and piercing guns need to be sterilized, and you should purchase an anti-bacterial solution to use on the fresh piercing after the procedure and during the healing process.
10. Hepatitis A can be spread through contaminated food or water
Hepatitis A spreads when a person ingests fecal matter from an infected person. You’d be surprised – even objects outside the bathroom can have minuscule traces of stool on them. Do ensure good hygiene wherever you are, and disinfect hands after using the toilet and before eating.
Be especially careful when consuming raw or undercooked shellfish as well – they could’ve been “marinating” in contaminated waters before reaching your table.
Preventing and living with Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis is a disease not to be underestimated — while it comes with symptoms not easily observed, it’s very easily spread and has consequences that can be just as deadly as that of other chronic diseases.
Share these facts with your loved ones to keep them in the know and protect them from this deadly illness.